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Final HHS Rules on Birth Control

Final HHS Rules on Birth Control June 28, 2013

(Updated 6/28/2013, 2:45 EDT)

Health and Human Services today released the new rules on the birth control mandate under the Affordable Care Act.  A good summary was provided by the New York Times:

Under the rule issued on Friday, the government said that certain “religious employers” — primarily houses of worship — may exclude contraceptive coverage from their health plans for employees and their dependents. In effect, they will be exempt from the federal requirement to provide contraceptive coverage.

The rule also lays out what the administration describes as an accommodation for other nonprofit religious and church-affiliated organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, like hospitals and institutions of higher education.

Under the rule, these organizations will not have to contract, arrange or pay for contraceptive coverage to which they object on religious grounds.

Instead, the administration said, such coverage will be “separately provided to women enrolled in their health plans at no cost.”

Under this arrangement, a nonprofit religious employer must notify its insurer that it objects to contraceptive coverage. The insurer must then notify people in the health plan that it will provide them with payments for contraceptive services as long as they remain in the health plan.

Many employers serve as their own insurers and hire outside companies to administer benefits and pay claims.

In such cases, the administration said, the “third-party administrator” must inform people in an employer-sponsored health plan that it is “providing or arranging separate no-cost payments for contraceptive services.”

Moreover, according to the Health Watch Blog at The Hill:

Insurance companies enlisted to provide contraception under these accommodations will receive a rebate from the federal government to offset the cost. 

Though I have not yet found a response from the USCCB, I imagine that a major sticking point is that no exemption has been created for private employers.
Thoughts, reactions, prognostications for the future?  We are now in the middle of the bishops’ second Fortnight for Freedom:  how should we understand this mandate in light of religious freedom concerns?
Wide open debate is welcome, but let’s keep it civil.  Citations and links for statements of fact (particularly obscure or older ones) will be appreciated.
UPDATE: (06/28/2013, 2:45 EDT)  The USCCB has issued a brief press release regarding the new mandate.  The following text is taken from an email sent out by the USCCB:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 110-page ruling on its  health care mandate requires time for analysis, said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Dolan also expressed gratitude  for the five-month extension on implementing the complex proposal.

            HHS issued the ruling June 28. The effective date of the rule had been set for August 1, 2013, but today’s decision moves the date to January 1, 2014 for some nonprofit entities.

            “We have received and started to review the 110-page final rule on the HHS mandate,” Cardinal Dolan said.

“We appreciate the extension of the effective date by five months, which is readily apparent in the rule,” he said. “The remainder of the rule is long and complex. It will require more careful analysis.  We will provide a fuller statement when that analysis is complete.”

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